Thursday, February 26, 2015

ARC Review & Author Interview: Flunked by Jen Calonita

 About the Book:

Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School
By Jen Calonita
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
March 3, 2014
Get theBook: 
Amazon | B&N BAM | !ndigo IndieBound


Gilly wouldn’t call herself wicked exactly…but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run- down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).

Until she gets caught.

Gilly’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School- where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its heroic mission. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: can a villain really change?

Advance Praise for Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School

“Charming fairy-tale fun.” –Sarah Mlynowski, author of the Whatever After series. 

“Flunked is spellbinding and wickedly clever. Gilly is smart, spunky, and a hilarious narrator!” –Leslie Margolis, author of the Annabelle Unleashedand the Maggie Brooklyn mysteries. 

“Flunked is a fresh and funny take on the enchanted world. (And who hasn’t always wanted to know what happened to Cinderella’s stepmother?”)” -Julie DeVillers, author of the Trading Faces identical twin series and Emma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker. 

“A reform school where all the teachers are former villains. Kinda writes itself, right?” Betsy Bird’s Librarian Preview

About the Author:

Jen Calonita is the author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series and other books like Sleepaway Girls and Summer State of Mind, but Fairy Tale Reform School is her first middle grade series. She rules Long Island, New York with husband Mike, princes Tyler and Dylan, and Chihuahua Captain Jack Sparrow, but the only castle she’d ever want to live in is Cinderella’s at Disney World. She’d love for you to drop her a line at or keep the fairy tale going at

My Review: 

**** An advanced copy of this book was provided to me from the publisher via Netgalley (thank you Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) in exchange of an honest review in retur. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

I read Flunked: Fair Tale Reform School about a month ago and I absolutely adored it. It's a fast and fun read that fairy tale fans of all ages will absolutely adore. The book is full of interesting and likable characters, an engaging world, and an interesting plot that kept me entertained from beginning to end.

This month's theme is Retellings and I have had the opportunity to read a handful of very different twists on classic stories that we all know and love. In my experience with retelling I have noticed the one thing for me that makes it an interesting retelling is when the author makes an obvious tip of the hat to the classic stories but writes something completely unique. That is exactly what Jen Calonita has been able to do here. She does a fantastic in taking more than one story that we have all grown up with and turns the concepts all around. That starts with the world of Enchantasia. Despite this being after the "happily ever after," things are far from happy for most people. Like most Fantasy stories that I love there is a bit of political intrigue. Here we have an oppressive minority group of royals and some rebels who are doing their best to shake things up (there may be some of those rebels at Fairy Tale Reform school).

And those characters, both the rebels and the royals, that Jen created are what really engaged me in this story and made it such a creative twist on the classic fairy tales was the characters. Fairy Tale Reform School is full of all kinds of unique and likable characters. First we have our main character and protagonist Gillian Cobbler. She'd had a bit of a tough life and it's made her into quite the spunky little thief. Right from the beginning I love Gilly. She is a fantastic female protagonist. She's fiesty, smart, and tough but also has a sense of justice. She lent the book such an interesting voice that gave the book a really effervescent tone.

And that's just to start with. Of course this is a book about reforming villains so of course I have to talk about those famous villains featured here. We have my personal favorite, Madame Cleo aka the Sea Witch, who is slightly crazy but tons of fun. Wolfington, or the Big Bad Wolf, who is actually a real gentleman. And of course there is is the Evil Queen and Wicked Stepmother who are working hard to help the students and themselves in the process. Each villain teaches their own class and right before we meet them we get a newspaper interview and a little update about them and what they have been up to since their stories (or should I say the story they were featured in) ended. It was a really great way to learn about them before we interact with them and a fun and creative kind of storytelling.

My only criticism was in terms of the plot development. Flunked is more on the younger side of the YA spectrum, but that's not really what I mean. I liked that about the book. It made it a quick and fun read. But while everything built to an interesting and engaging conclusion, the way it got there got there felt a little rushed and odd at times. There were some great moments along the way but sometimes it felt like it was moving from moment to moment like a to do list. Although there was a pretty interesting mystery that kept me guessing until the very end and even caught me of guard so it couldn't have been that bad!

Besides the mystery, what I loved so much about the storytelling was the deeper message of the book. And that message is not just because she makes the villains the heroes (although that is something I totally loved). You might expect that this is a villain story. I personally love a good villain story, where we get the opportunity to understand what and why an evil character is doing. But this is much more lighthearted than that. No the heart of this story is a fantastic message about what it means to be a hero and that anyone can be a hero.

Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School is a fantastic and interesting spin on the classic idea of heroism and fairy tales. The world is engaging, the characters are complex, and likable, and the plot is interesting and unique.

I give Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School by Jen Calonita a 9 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you are looking for a fun and engaging fairy tale retelling  then check this book out. It would be a great buy if you're looking for something to pick up for the fairy tale loving girl or boy in your life. Let them experience and love Gilly and see that anyone can be a hero, even a villain. It's perfect for the young and young at heart!

Interview with Jen Calonita Author of Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School

Thanks so much for agreeing to be on the blog Jen and sharing some info with readers about Flunked.

1. First things first, can you describe your book in 10 words or less?

Fairy tale reform school where villains can be heroes.

2. What inspired you to write Flunked?

Most people read fairy tales, or watch movies based on fairy tales, and are content with happily ever after. Even as a kid, I always worried about the villains. Sure, sometimes they died, but when they just disappeared from the page, I always wondered: Are they still out there? Could they ever redeem themselves? That idea always stuck with me and from it, FLUNKED was born.

That's so true. There is a lot of "unfinished business" when it comes to fairy tale villains. I like that you were worried about what would happen to them and not what would happen to the hero or heroine if they ever came back!

3. Flunked is a fairy tale retelling so let’s talk fairy tales. What is your favorite fairy tale and why?

I really enjoy The Frog Princess and The Princess and the Pea. Those are two that are pretty much happy stories in every version! I’m pretty much a fan of any of the fairy tales with a princess and a happy ending! I mean, so many of these fairy tales are such downers, aren’t they? Poor Sleeping Beauty in some versions. Poor Rapunzel!

Who doesn't love a good happy ending. There are some seriously dark endings to some fairy tales. Like Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid is so not happy!

4. And speaking of retellings, if you could change the ending to any fairy tale what would it be? 

While I love a princess, I wish that some of these princesses had a bit more of a backbone. Do they have to take the prince’s hand in marriage right away? What’s wrong with a courtship first? I think that’s why I enjoyed Disney’s Enchanted so much. I love how fascinated Giselle is with the idea of a “date.”

That's so true! I never really thought about how there's no dating and courtship in fairy tales. They seriously invented insta-love didn't they? And I LOVE Enchanted. It definitely plays with a lot of the tropes in the genre.

5. I love that the book is about reforming villains. Who is your favorite villain in literature?

Hands down that has to be Voldermort from the Harry Potter series. I mean, is there anyone more evil? What blows my mind is how wicked he is from such a young age. It seems so obvious to me that he’s trouble, and yet, people in power—bad or not—always attract followers, don’t they? I loved reading about Harry Potter and Voldermort’s journey together.

Voldemort is a great villain. The contrast in attitudes between him and Harry despite having pretty similar upbringings. They're perfect foils.

6. Let’s talk writing. When you start writing do you like to outline things or do you just let it flow without a plan?

I’ve tried writing books both ways. In the end though, I think I’m too Type A to not have a plan! My friend, author Elizabeth Eulberg (The Lonely Hearts Club, Take a Bow), turned me on to post it notes and I feel like that helps my process a lot. I write down chapter and character storyline ideas on post its and pin them to my message board. Then I move them around like a puzzle till the story makes sense and I figure out where the holes are. It’s been such a helpful tool—for the most part. One time, I laid out all the post its perfectly on a table at a coffee shop I was working in, and then joked to the waitress, “Can I take this table top home with me?”

Wow! I hope they let you take it home. I like the post-it not idea. That sounds really helpful.

7. How much research went into creating the world of Flunked? Did you read a lot of fairy tales and nursery rhymes?

As soon as I started talking about the idea of Flunked, my husband got me these beautiful leather anthologies of Hans Christian Anderson and Grimms’ fairy tales. But the truth is, there are countless versions of every fairy tale out there in the universe so you can have a lot of fun turning the stories on their heads. At least, that’s what I wanted to do!

I love that, when you turn the stories on their head. You're right there are so many different versions of all the classic stories. And a lot of the ones you use like Snow White, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid are pretty well known.

8. Is Fairy Tale Reform School the start of a new series or is this just a standalone? 

Flunked is the first book in the Fairy Tale Reform School series. The sequel, Charmed, will come out in 2016. After that? Who knows? There are always new villains to defeat in the fairy tale world. If people want more of Gilly, Jax, Kayla, Ollie and Maxine, I’d be happy to give it to them.

YEAH! I personally would love more Gilly, Jax, Ollie, and Maxine. I'd also love more Madame Cleo and more Wolfie. You definitely wrote some memorable characters.

9. If you were trapped on a deserted island with any fictional character, who would it be?

Ooh, can I pick someone from comic books? If so, I’d pick Thor, as played by my celeb crush, Chris Hemsworth. He could fly us right off that desert island! And if he couldn’t fly us off, at least I’d be stuck with Chris Hemsworth.

YES! You can totally pick Thor. He'd be great to be trapped on a deserted island with! Mmmm... Chris Hemsworth. I like it a lot!

Thanks so much for answering my questions Jen! Flunked is such a fun book and I hope everyone checks it out next week when it comes out!

More Fairy Tale Fun: 

Take the Fairy Tale Reform School Quiz and find out if you get sentenced to Fairy Tale Reform School, it will help to have an ally. Take the quiz and find out who your mentor would be.


5 Print Copies of Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School 
  a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Hmm, guess it would be The Queen of Hearts, because who hasn't wanted to say at least once "Off With Their Heads?"

    1. Queen of Hearts was a good one. She's sinister in a totally psychotic way!

  2. Maleficent! I mean, dragons! Come on!

    1. Maleficent is a great choice. She's super dark and I agree, anyone that can transform into a dragon is a fabulous villain!

  3. This book sounds super cute! I'm normally not much of an MG reader, but this looks too darn adorable not to pick up. Great post and great interview!

    1. Thanks Rachel. It is YA but it has more of a MG feel. It's cute and fun and worth picking up. I hope you like it!

  4. I'm not that strong on fairy-tales, but uhm... I would choose Maleficent perhaps! She scared me so much when I was little, she was a great villain!

    1. Maleficent is pretty scary. She was very sinister. Good choice.